"My drawing suits me best”: Language, Art and Motherhood in Anne Bronte’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda

Elvan Mutlu


‘To say that women is mystery is to say, not that she is silent, but her language is notunderstood; she is there, but hidden behind the veils; she exists beyond these uncertain appearances’, said noted feminist Simone de Beauvoir. This essay aims to analyse Anne Brontё’s and George Eliot’s portrayal of women in the light of de Beauvoir’s words. The popular Victorian image of an ideal middle-class woman was to be ‘the Angel in the House,’ who was expected to be devoted and submissive to her husband. In this paper, I would like to argue that this ideology is disrupted through the use of female art in two Victorian novels: Anne Brontё’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848) and George Eliot’s Daniel Deronda (1876). Examining the concept of art as a means of self-expression in these novels shows that women could have their own voices in a patriarchal society. The strategies of artistic representation in these works deny and resist the ideological position of woman as merely ‘the Angel in the House.’ The comparison between Brontё’s portrayal of her female protagonist and Eliot’s representation of her female characters suggests that both writers were well-aware of the importance that art held for women in the nineteenth-century. Both writers use art in order to represent how women make their own space in a patriarchal society. I assert that the reaction against these women throughout these novels, especially because of their lack of interest in motherhood, indicates that they are seen as ‘odd’ and unacceptable. Reacting against these norms, both authors give their female characters the freedom of breaking with the Victorian social structures of everyday society and defining themselves in a cosmopolitan context. 


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